Fines mounting for owner of Zerega property’s porch collapse

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An 8-year-old girl was killed outside her Zerega Avenue home after a porch handrail collapsed on her on Aug. 2.
Photo Adrian Childress

The property owner of a Zerega Avenue multi-family home whose porch collapse led to the death of an 8-year old girl over the summer is facing $11,250 in fines for failing to adhere to city building code and could face even heftier fines if he doesn’t address the violations soon.

Ahmed Mehraj, the property owner of 1433 Zerega Ave., is being cited for improper building maintenance, including three additional violations for illegal occupancy and improper egress of an unpermitted cellar on the premises, and illegal piping and metering on a faulty utility.

At a hearing for these four violations at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) on Oct. 29., NYC Department of Buildings officials issued three additional follow-up violations to Mehraj for failure to correct three of the the aforementioned violations.

According to Andrew Rudansky, press secretary for the Department of Buildings (DOB), the department will continue to levy follow-up violations until the issues have been corrected.

A new hearing on the fourth violation —working on an illegal cellar apartment without a permit — will be held on Jan. 28, 2022, with a maximum penalty of $25,000, if the OATH board rules against Tehraj.

On Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., 8-year-old Fatima Jannat Chowdhury died after a marble handrail outside her Zerega Avenue home collapsed on her while she played with a friend, according to authorities.

Chowdhury was with a friend on the front porch and as the two attempted to squeeze through the marble columns, a 10-foot section of granite balustrade fell off the porch and struck the child. Chowdhury was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center, where she later succumbed to her injuries at the hospital.

The girl’s aunt told investigators that the family only moved into the apartment three or four months ago. However, the family was warned to be careful of the loose banisters by the owner, according to authorities.

Mehraj has been under scrutiny by the Department of Buildings dating back to 2016, having previously received three citations on a Westchester Square property. The three citations include an illegal conversion of a basement into an apartment, illegal plastering in the basement apartment, and a complaint that the basement window’s small size led to flooding of the apartment in May 2016.

According to the DOB’s online records, the NYPD requested a structural stability inspection of the front porch just two hours after the August incident that killed Chowdhury. The DOB issued a partial vacation order of the cellar, and all affected tenants were offered emergency relocation assistance by the American Red Cross.

Mehraj received a coronavirus-related loan of $9,687 from the Small Business Administration this March, according to online records.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes. 

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